A prescient, alarming work on the overreach of technology and state power.



A scarifying dive into China’s pernicious spy state.

Enlisting interviews with Uyghur refugees in Turkey, where he now lives, American investigative journalist Cain digs into the “sophisticated surveillance dystopia” set up by the Chinese government. Unprecedented advances in artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and other technologies have allowed the state to monitor and control the Uyghur population in Xinjiang. This is just the beginning, warns the author, whose previous book, Samsung Rising (2020), exposed many of the secrets of the South Korean tech giant. In his latest investigation, Cain was determined to infiltrate China’s crackdown in Xinjiang, where the state accuses the native Uyghurs, a Turkic Muslim people, of the “three evils” of terrorism, separatism, and extremism. With China’s aim to revive the historic Silk Road via its ambitious, $1 trillion One Belt, One Road initiative, it needed to pacify the restive region of Xinjiang, its most sensitive border. However, beginning in 2014, China escalated its counterterrorism tactics to unseen levels of brutality. As Cain writes, “China’s goal was to erase one people’s identity, culture, and history and to achieve a total assimilation of millions of people.” The author systematically breaks down these methods, including the creation of “vocational training centers” and “reeducation centers,” which, by 2017, housed more than 1.5 million Uyghurs. Cain’s main protagonist, “Maysem,” chronicles the increased monitoring of her family and home and tells about how she was placed in a concentration camp because of her supposed propensity for crime. This was based on “predictive policing,” in which AI uses an algorithm “to guess who might commit a crime in the future.” In addition to hundreds of hours of personal interviews with 168 Uyghurs, the author also examines documentation suggesting “deep connivance of many Chinese technology firms in creating the monstrosity in Xinjiang.” And the monster continues to expand, with Chinese tentacles reaching outside its borders to bring refugees back into the fold. Cain also tracks how similar technology is being deployed in the U.S.

A prescient, alarming work on the overreach of technology and state power.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5417-5703-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.


The former vice president reflects warmly on the president whose followers were encouraged to hang him.

Pence’s calm during the Trump years has been a source of bemusement, especially during the administration’s calamitous demise. In this bulky, oddly uncurious political memoir, Pence suggests the source of his composure is simple: frequent prayer and bottomless patience for politicking. After a relatively speedy recap of his personal and political history in Indiana—born-again Christian, conservative radio host, congressman, governor—he remembers greeting the prospect of serving under Trump with enthusiasm. He “was giving voice to the desperation and frustration caused by decades of government mismanagement,” he writes. Recounting how the Trump-Pence ticket won the White House in 2016, he recalls Trump as a fundamentally hardworking president, albeit one who often shot from the hip. Yet Pence finds Trump’s impulsivity an asset, setting contentious foreign leaders and Democrats off-balance. Soon they settled into good cop–bad cop roles; he was “the gentler voice,” while “it was Trump’s job to bring the thunder.” Throughout, Pence rationalizes and forgives all sorts of thundering. Sniping at John McCain? McCain never really took the time to understand him! Revolving-door staffers? He’s running government like a business! That phone call with Ukraine’s president? Overblown! Downplaying the threat Covid-19 presented in early 2020? Evidence, somehow, of “the leadership that President Trump showed in the early, harrowing days of the pandemic.” But for a second-in-command to such a disruptive figure, Pence dwells little on Trump’s motivations, which makes the story’s climax—Trump’s 2020 election denials and the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection—impossible for him to reconcile. How could such a selfless patriot fall under the sway of bad lawyers and conspiracy theorists? God only knows. Chalk it up to Pence's forgiving nature. In the lengthy acknowledgments he thanks seemingly everybody he’s known personally or politically; but one name’s missing.

Disingenuous when not willfully oblivious.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 9781982190330

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.


From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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